Last Updated on 19 February 2021.
WHY YOUR FIRE ALARM MAINTENANCE SERVICE CAN’T WAIT – IT’S NOT A PAINT JOB…
This article is an essential read for business or premises owners, managers or agents, as well as those who are in charge of fire safety for residential buildings, such as apartment blocks and care homes.
Right now, many businesses and commercial premises have paused operations, with many working from home, leaving their offices vacant.
But just because it’s empty or running limited operations under a skeleton staff doesn’t mean there’s a free pass to forgo maintenance and upkeep, especially where maintenance regards health and safety.
You’ll presently be prioritising what jobs are considered a must and an emergency, and what can afford to wait.
The Minister of State for Security, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, has regarded workers within the fire industry as key and critical workers, saying in a letter to the Fire Industry Association (FIA):
“Many roles within the fire and security industry provide vital support to critical services as well as relieve pressure on the emergency services.”
The British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE) and the Construction Industry Council (CIC) also specified the following as key activities, and so must continue to be carried out during the pandemic:
- Fire safety inspections
- Requirement for maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment to meet Fire Safety legislation (even if buildings are not occupied)
- Ongoing need for fire risk assessments, both to meet legislation and new circumstances in buildings
- Installation/maintenance technicians providing services to key sectors – health, power, etc.
- Emergency callouts, safety checks and essential work in care homes
- Urgent works on emergency service properties other than health – police, fire, etc.
The emphasis here is on maintenance and remedial work with regards to fire protection systems, namely fire alarms and any other linked systems which are fire safety responders, such as sprinklers (active fire protection) and fire doors (passive fire protection).
Where your building sits above, below or adjacent to living accommodation, (and, of course, if it does, indeed, contain living accommodation) your considerations and efforts towards fire safety must be, if anything, amplified, rather than paused, under these current circumstances, so as to continue to protect everyone who is currently at home.
COVID-19 is the dominant threat we are presently facing; however, fire safety failings are a constant threat to businesses and homes.
Working together to save lives and protect the NHS also means taking a conscientious approach to other critical areas which serve to protect us and not taking our fingers off the button when it comes to carrying out our key responsibilities.
If your fire alarm maintenance service is due its six-monthly visit (unless stipulated in your fire risk assessment to be more frequent than every six months) or requires essential remedial works, DON’T POSTPONE. Here’s why:
Check yourself before you wreck yourself…
Your fire alarm is like the backbone of your premises. It keeps you standing. Your maintenance service is a system check-up to ensure everything is working as it should.
If there are any faults or if batteries need replacing, this will be discovered, giving you the opportunity to fix and rectify, thereby diminishing your chances of having a dysfunctional system that cannot save you in the moment you might need it.
False alarms are no joke…
If you have monitoring (i.e. an emergency response), keeping up with maintenance and remedial works is incredibly important, so as not to call upon the emergency services in the event of a fault on your system as opposed to a genuine emergency.
If you don’t have monitoring, now’s a good time to think about getting it – remember, your fire alarm is only your saviour if someone is there to hear it.
Buildings are particularly vulnerable to arson when vacant, so an emergency response means you’ll have a greater chance of vanquishing the fire, catching the offender and limiting damage or loss.
With every action is an equal and opposite reaction…
Yes, Newton’s Third Law can be applied to fire alarms, too!
Depending on the building, your fire alarm is the brains of the operation that starts a series of responses once activated.
For office buildings, you might see access control gates (where you would usually have to swipe through or seek permission before gaining entry) fling open so as to allow free movement for fluid and fast evacuation.
For schools and shopping malls, you should see sprinklers activate in the area believed to have a fire, according to the detectors within that area.
And elsewhere, you might also see fire doors (closing in areas containing a fire as a firestopping method, and open in other areas to, again, allow free movement).
(You should also see other fire safety features within your building, such as fire extinguishers, for use by competent and confident individuals (usually fire wardens/marshals) to extinguish a fire where the fire brigade are not yet present. Whilst these are not connected to your fire alarm, they are an essential feature of fire safety within your building and require maintenance once per year, unless stated otherwise in your fire risk assessment, which should equally not be postponed.)
All of these systems and equipment require maintenance by a competent (professional and accredited) person, as well as ongoing testing (typically on a weekly basis, such as it is for fire alarms) to prove that you are:
A) Taking the appropriate measures of the ‘Responsible Person’ as stipulated by Fire Safety Law to stay safe and legally compliant, and…
B) Made aware of any faults or problems with your system(s) which need resolving, and where not doing so could affect its functionality in the event of a real fire.
So, if your fire safety strategy is made up of many components, all linked to your fire alarm, then it’s important to resume and continue with the maintenance services and remedial works as per usual.
REMEMBER, PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING!
No one wants a fire to happen. And, too often, many think a fire will never happen.
No one saw COVID-19 coming…and those who did didn’t think it’d result in a global lockdown.
If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us, besides the solidarity of humanity, it’s that preparation is your most valuable asset…
And in the good old words of Benjamin Franklin: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
So, if right now, you’ve taken steps to furlough your staff, apply for government grants and bank loans, and you’re implementing strategies to see your business through the lockdown, DON’T make the mistake of ignoring and delaying key services to protect your people and your premises both now and following the pandemic.
Of course, put off that paint job, delay that new desk delivery, tell the window cleaners to have a month off…
Just don’t postpone your essential fire safety maintenance. That’s a key part of your fire safety preparation strategy.
And if you need any help with your fire alarm or other fire safety services, we’re here for you.
From emergency call-outs to fix a fault, to speedy monitoring installations to give you peace of mind with an emergency response, and essential fire alarm maintenance, we’re here to help.
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